The Brazilian Superior Court of Justice suspended the settlement reached between the Government of Brazil and Samar- co Mining S.A., and its parent companies Vale S.A. and BHP Billiton Brazil Ltda in response to what has been described as the worst socio-environmental disaster in the country’s history.
The United Nations Humans Right Council considered that “The agreed settlement ignored the vic- tims’ human rights, and its suspen- sion is a perfect opportunity to perform a thorough human rights- based review of the remedies and compensations due to the victims with transparency and public par- ticipation”, the UN experts said.
In November 2015, the col- lapse of a tailing dam in Mariana in the state of Minas Gerais re- leased about 50 million tonnes of iron ore waste, reportedly exacerbating the levels of several toxic substances, in a course of approximately 700km of several rivers including the vital River Doce. Nineteen people were killed as a direct result of the collapse.
The lives of 6 million people were severely affected, as many homes and villages were buried or destroyed, and, essential sources of water were contaminated. Sources of food and water for indigenous peoples and local communities were greatly compromised.
Brazil’s public prosecutor esti- mated the cost of damages at 25 times greater than the amount guaranteed in the initial settlement
The UN experts also observed that the settlement agreement was negotiated at record speed comparing with other environmental disasters of this magnitude, during a tumultuous period for the Government of Brazil, which is mired in a political crisis and allegations of mass corruption.